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Farmer takes dead lamb into council office after dog attacks

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 16, 2013

By Adam Walmesley and Phil Goodwin

  • Peter Withecombe with his stock on Northam Burrows, which has suffered attacks from dogs. Picture: Rob Tibbles

  • Farmer Peter Withecombe with his flock on Northam Burrows

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A farmer at the end of his tether after dozens of attacks on his sheep has dumped the latest victim in the offices of his local council.

Peter Withecombe, 57, brought the remains of the deceased lamb killed by a pet dog before a committee meeting of Northam Town Council.

"I wanted to show just how much damage dogs are doing to sheep and lambs," he told the Western Morning News.

The 57-year-old claims he has had up to 60 sheep killed by dogs over the last five years, and the latest incident was the second in the past week.

He said: "Its throat had been ripped off, its face mauled and shoulder ripped.

"All I'm asking for is for dogs to be put on a lead around livestock. I've had meeting after meeting after meeting with Northam Town Council, but they won't listen to me."

He added: "Enough is enough. I'm absolutely fed up. I'm at the end of my tether."

Police were called to Northam Town Council, in North Devon, yesterday after officials were confronted by a distressed Mr Withecombe holding the dead animal.

"He stormed into the council chamber and hurled the dead sheep onto the floor," said Jane Mills, Northam Town Council clerk.

"Then he proceeded to pick-up the animal by its back legs and wave it in front of the councillors. It was quite unpleasant for us and not the sort of thing you expect."

A police spokesman said the incident was "the straw that broke the camel's back", adding that officers were eventually able to calm him down, offering "advice" rather than resorting to arrest. Mr Withecombe admits shooting an Alsatian dog in 2005 after it killed 13 sheep.

He was so angry at the number of his sheep savaged on Northam Burrows in recent years that he recently warned he will open fire again if nothing was done to curb out-of-control dogs.

Kay Marshall, a resident in nearby Appledore who regularly meets Mr Withecombe while walking her dog, said the council-owned country park had "a big problem".

"Even tourists are being put off coming here because there are so many dogs on the loose," she added. "They are leaving other animals for dead. When my husband was walking on the burrows, he saw nine sheep with their faces torn by dogs, and two of them were dead in the river.

"Peter had another three separate incidents on Christmas Day – he was up and down the burrows all day, like a yo-yo. What he did [yesterday] shows just how angry farmers are getting over this issue."

Devon and Cornwall police received a call from an Appledore woman at 7.47am, reporting that her dog had killed a sheep near to the "old dump". She was looking to find the farmer to compensate for the attack, but before she was able to speak to him, Mr Withecombe had found the animal and taken it to the offices, at Windmill Lane.

A police spokesman added: "Police were called out to council offices at 9.50am amid worries over a breach of the peace after someone had dumped a sheep and then left. He was frustrated at the situation on the burrows but later came back and took the animal with him.

"He went into reception quite upset that this lamb was killed – we went to speak to him and gave him words of advice.

"He has not assaulted anybody but people were worried – I suppose it was the straw that broke the camel's back."

Farmers and residents want to challenge the Government to bring in the CRoW Act (The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000) making it compulsory for pet owners to put their dogs on a lead around livestock.

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